When to call 9-1-1

Apr 12, 2011

The Washington State Patrol is reminding people they should call 9-1-1 only when they need police, fire, or emergency medical services. It may seem like simple common sense advice that everyone knows, but dispatchers frequently get calls asking for road conditions or driving directions. Frivolous calls like that can delay someone from getting the emergency help they need.

Mark Layhew is director of the Patrol's Communications Division. He says beyond police, fire or emergency medical aid, the list of reasons to call 9-1-1 is pretty short:

"We need to keep our phone lines and our dispatchers free to handle emergency calls. We would love to be helpful in other ways, but will likely end those kinds of calls very quickly with a referral to non-emergency numbers.”

If you see a drunk driver on the road, the Patrol wants you to call. It's legal to use your cell phone while driving to report an emergency. Layhew says, "An impaired driver is an emergency. We want those kinds of calls very badly."

Another valid reason to call 9-1-1 is if you have information that could help solve a crime. Dispatchers will refer you to the appropriate agency handling the case.

And if you want to call somewhere for information on road and travel conditions, try 5-1-1. The State Department of Transportation also offers plenty of resources on its website.